So, here I am today realizing just how ignorant I was and envious of those moms who know right away that homeschooling is right for their gifted child. I wish I knew and I often wonder what could have been. To avoid becoming a cautionary tale like my son was becoming, I would urge parents of gifted children to strongly read the definition of what gifted is and heed the words at the end:
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened sensitivity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally. (Columbus Group, 1991)
Let us break this down so we can really understand what gifted is. There is a strong emphasis on the word asynchrony which is the key to understanding the unique nature of what gifted children are like.
Asynchronous development is one of the most challenging and confusing parts of the gifted child. Gifted children develop unevenly across various domains, in different areas and at different rates with no constant regularity. Asynchrony is essentially disequilibrium. A child may be chronologically 8 with a scientific and mathematical mind equivalent to that of a college student; the writing skills of a 7 year old; athletic abilities of a 5 year old and the social emotional range of a toddler to 13 year old. Gifted children are many ages at once and it can be confusing for the child, parent and teacher. Along with the joys of asynchrony, there are overexcitabilities that create an additional layer of intensity in the home and elsewhere. Gifted children are highly sensitive and extremely intense in their range of emotions, interests and abilities. The greater the level of advanced intellectual development a child espouses as compared to his physical development, the more challenging an experience navigating though social life and school can be. This is where the modification in parenting and teaching really come in to play. This is also why alternative educational options like homeschooling/unschooling work so well for highly asynchronous gifted children. When a child has disparate abilities, a traditional one sized fits all curriculum approach will likely not work well. Not only is the curriculum likely to be a mismatch for an exceptionally gifted child, but the ability to find a true intellectual peer is also going to prove difficult in a traditional school classroom.
The scatter of abilities inherent with asynchronicity can be overwhelming for a child who is required to fit into an environment (school) designed around chronological age restrictions. Homeschooling/unscholing allows one to tailor make an education customized to match the highest abilities while accommodating the areas that need remediation or simply more time to develop. For many gifted children, and boys in particular, writing skills often lag behind other areas which can cause much undue frustration for the perfectionist child who may internalize their struggle and consider themselves dumb. Writing is such an integral part of a traditional school day and can really put undue pressure on a young, developing mind whose thoughts race far too quickly for his body to execute efficiently. Writing relies on fine motor control, organizing thoughts, holding ideas in one's mind, engaging both left and right sides of the brain and physical coordination. For a child with underdeveloped motor coordination and executive function challenges, writing can be a daunting undertaking. A wonderful modification for a child with writing challenges is to transcribe for them, have them use dictation software or try an audio recording app. Fortunately, talk to text type software is readily available and some believe it is the future of communication such that even keyboarding will become irrelevant. This is but one example of how a customized learning environment can be supportive for an asynchronous child or a twice exceptional child who might otherwise be held back from reaching their true potential because of one area that lags behind their advanced cognitive development.
Gifted children require a modified educational approach as the definition states. There are so may different learning styles and approaches to education that there is no one style that will work well if applied in the same way to all high ability children. This reality sheds light on why many families with gifted children choose homeschooling/unschooling for at least some part of the child's education.
We started our alternative educational journey by deschooling for months which naturally evolved right into radically accelerated unschooling. For us, there is no other way. Our life changed dramatically and for the better. Our days probably do not look like anyone else's because we do not prescribe to any common educational standards. Through seeing the marked improvement in my oldest child, who endured a handful of years stuck in the system, having evolved from behavioral problem to child prodigy in a matter of months, I am able to relinquish antiquated thoughts about what education should look like. Our beliefs have changed. Our lives have improved. We do not believe in institutionalized learning and we do not compare our day to what others are doing. My kids enjoy their days learning that which interests them. Delight driven, self directed education is what we embrace fueled by a tremendous amount of technology and media. They are creative and inventive, motivated and productive, delightful and challenging and most of all they are happy. Our approach is very extreme and may not seem plausible for many but for those with creative, motivated children who are carnivores of knowledge it is an ideal solution to combat the sentiment, "I hate school. I am bored."